How can friends and family help?

If a woman who is being abused comes to you for help, you can:

Listen to her and let her talk about what’s happened.

It’s important to be understanding and supportive. She may feel she caused the abuse to happen and that she is to blame. It’s important for both of you to keep in mind that no one has the right to abuse another person.

Reserve judgment

Do not offer excuses for the violence and do not minimize the seriousness of what has happened. You shouldn’t worry about “taking sides” if you know and care about both partners in the abusive relationship. Offering support and helping a woman find resources that can assist her does not imply you are choosing sides.

Respect her confidentiality

Help her find a safe place to stay

For a woman who is abused, her safety is of the utmost importance. In a crisis situation, it’s important for you to remain calm and to offer support by identifying options, such as an assaulted women’s shelter.

Be supportive

Support her if she chooses to call the police. You can assist further by helping her locate additional resources such as legal aid and counseling. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with a victim’s decisions, be supportive. The only exception to this, of course, is if a woman’s decisions are clearly dangerous, harmful, or illegal.

Set limits and be clear about them

Set limits to which you are willing to be involved and in what ways you can help. Be clear. Many women who are abused feel ashamed and violated — it’s difficult to confide in others and to disclose abuse. Do not breach the trust placed in you by the victim. Let her know whether you intend to do anything and, if so, what.

Be respectful

You may offer help and support with the best of intentions, but ultimately, a woman’s decisions are her own. Don’t be offended if she doesn’t follow the advice you give.

Examine your own feelings and attitudes

Remember that domestic violence transcends age, race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, education, sexual orientation, and physical/mental ability. If you are not lesbian, examine your assumptions. They may reflect certain myths about lesbian relationships. Don’t assume an abused woman’s partner is male — abuse occurs in lesbian relationships too.